Trump says he’ll declare the US opioid crisis a national emergency ‘next week’

Trump taunts major proclamation, likely next week, on the narcotic crisis two months after declaring opioid craving was a national emergency

Donald Trump on Monday taunted a long-awaited announcement on address the crisis of opioid addiction. He also suggested his selection to lead to lead the National Office of Drug Control Policy might be under review.

More than two months after Trump said at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club” the opioid crisis is an emergency “, the president said he would probably formally declare it a national emergency with an event next week.

Speaking in a Rose Garden press conference with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Trump said:” We’re going to have a major proclamation, probably next week, on the narcotic crisis and on the opioid massive problem .”

He added:” This country and, candidly, the world has a drug problem … and we’re going to something about it .”

Drug overdoses due to opioid utilize increased 21% in 2016; 64, 070 Americans died as a result of opioid use in the last year. On the campaign trail, Trump talked about combating opioid addiction. He has touted his border wall between the US and Mexico as one route of combating it.

Trump also weighed in the topic of the Pennsylvania congressman Tom Marino, his picking for a position informally known as” drug czar “.

Marino was the subject of a joint report by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes on Sunday about his role as the sponsor of a bill that critics say undermined federal enforcement efforts against the opioid outbreak. The bill made it far more difficult for the DEA to crack down on narcotic companies that built suspicious the transport of opioids.

Although he called Marino” a good guy” on Monday, he added:” I did consider research reports. We’re going to look into the report. We’re going to take it very seriously .”

The president left open the possibility of withdrawing Marino’s nomination. Trump said he planned to speak to Marino soon.

He said:” If I think it’s 1% negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change .”

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat in a state ravaged by opioid addiction, has called on Trump to withdraw Marino’s nomination.

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Hillary Clinton: Brexit vote was precursor to US election defeat

Former secretary of state tells Andrew Marr false claims of EU referendum campaign prepared the ground for Donald Trump win

Hillary Clinton has said the vote for Brexit, and specifically the false asserts built in the EU referendum campaign, were a forerunner of her defeat to Donald Trump in last year’s US presidential election.

During an interview for BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, she said:” Seeming at the Brexit vote now, it was a precursor to some extent of “whats happened to” us in the United States .”

Referring to” the amount of fabricated, false information that your voters were given by the leave campaign ,” she said:” You know, the big lie is a very potent tool, and we’ve somewhat kept it at bay in western republics, partly because of the freedom of the press.

” Obviously there have always been newspapers who leaned right or leaned left and they kind of counterbalanced each other. But given the utterly explosive spread of online news and sites that have jumped up that are very effective at propagating false stories, we’ve got some thinking to do … there has to be some basic level of fact and evidence in our politics. Well, candidly, in all regions of the national societies .”

The EU referendum and the US presidential election campaigns last year were both marked by a slew of dubious claims calibrated to appeal to key sections of the electorate, and targeted social media advertising. Thumbs have been pointed at the role allegedly played by Russia, but domestic performers are also implicated.

Clinton noted that Nigel Farage had campaigned for Trump as well as for Britain leaving the EU. Questions have been raised about the role of Cambridge Analytica, a data mining and analysis company, in both the US election and the EU referendum.

The same firm, of which Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was a board member, earned PS5m from the Trump campaign for a contract trying to swing voters. Clinton’s campaign and those of Barack Obama in previous years also hired behavioural profiling companies.

Dominic Cummings, the director of the Vote Leave campaign, said it owed “a great deal of its success” to a PS3. 5m contract with AggregateIQ, which specialises in targeted Facebook advertising and profiling.” We couldn’t have done it without them ,” he said in March.

Clinton also said that the UK would be set at a” very big drawback” if it failed to secure a Brexit deal. She said the country could not pin its hopes on a deal with Trump, who” doesn’t believe in trade” and was close to pulling out of Nafta, the US’s free trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

The prospect of no deal between the UK government and Europe has assumed prominence after talks in Brussels continued to be deadlocked over the scale of Britain’s financial obligations to the bloc.

” I mean , no deal entailing no preferential trade bargains, which means products in Britain would not have the various kinds of easy access to the European marketplace that you’ve had under EU membership ,” Clinton said.

” It could very well mean that there would be more pressure on businesses in Britain, if not to leave altogether, at the least to also have sites and employment elsewhere in Europe.

” I think that the interruption for Britain could be, you know, quite serious .”

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Trump risks making US rogue actor as he condemns Iran nuclear deal

If the US enforces new restrictions on Tehran, Washington will find itself isolated and without leverage to limit Irans nuclear programme, experts say

The content, tone and style of Donald Trump’s speech about Iran on Friday was a reminder of how much the current president of the United States enjoys conflict.

With his domestic legislative agenda stalled and a federal investigation scrutinising his finances and his relations with Moscow, Trump has taken to finding foes to rail against, including the press and black football players who kneel during the national anthem.

The tactic galvanises his core advocates and seems to rejuvenate him. He seemed similarly energised excoriating Iran on Friday. But taken into foreign policy, Trump’s visceral drive for showdown threatens to add a second nuclear crisis to the one Trump has already intensified in the Pacific with North Korea.

The 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action( JCPOA ), was aimed at ensuring that nearly 40 -year feud between the US and revolutionary Iran did not mutate into a clash between two nuclear nations.

In return for sanctions relief from six major powers and the international community as a whole, Iran accepted very deep constraints on its nuclear programme. Its current stockpile of enriched uranium, for example, is merely over 1% of what it was before the bargain.

But in his speech, Trump completely ignored the non-proliferation gains represented by the JCPOA, and portrayed the repatriation of Iran’s previously frozen assets as money for nothing. He stimulated the false assert that Iran had been on the point of” total collapse” when the agreement was signed.

His claims that” the Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement” were also misleading at best. On two occasions, Iran’s stockpile of heavy water flowed over the ceiling imposed by the bargain, but the situation was promptly rectified and Iran’s reserve is now below the limit.

Nor is heavy water a direct proliferation threat. It is used in certain reactors that render plutonium as a by-product. However, under the bargain, Iran has destroyed the only reactor of that type.

Trump’s remark that Iran had” failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges” appeared to refer to an ambiguity in the deal that had now been been resolved and was not declared to be a violation.

Trump’s litany of Iran’s past alleged crimes was also highly contentious, including an attempt to connect Shia Iran with the Sunni militants of al-Qaida, and including with regard to Osama bin Laden’s 1998 attacks on US embassies in east Africa.

The state department did not comply with White House pressure to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps( IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, but the Treasury did build that designation- under a comparatively obscure clause- marking the first time a major part of a country’s armed forces has been described as terrorist. It was- to say the least- a risky move given that troops from both countries are in close proximity in Syria and potentially elsewhere in the region.

Trump’s speech also dimmed said that he hoped the nuclear deal could escape Trump’s hostility if he passed the decision over its fate to Congress. Congress is deeply divided over the questions and therefore might end up doing nothing, European envoys had reasoned.

But after Trump’s remarks, that escape ramp appears to be blocked. Trump has called on Congress to add conditions to those Iran already complies with under the JCPOA, restricting ballistic missile growth and extending restrictions on its nuclear programme indefinitely.

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Trump retains right to cancel Iran nuclear deal – video

Even if a deep divided Congress agreed on such changes- which would require the support of 60 senators- “were not receiving” realistic potential Iran would accept them.

In that case, Tehran would be bound to cast the US as the rogue performer on the world stage- and Washington’s European actors would find it hard to disagree.

” Iran is not going to comply with provisions imposed unilaterally by the US. If the US then imposes sanctions or scraps the deal, then the US will be left highly isolated ,” said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for World peace.

” The US will be blamed across the world for the collapse of the Iran deal, other countries will not cooperate with the US in reimposing sanctions on Iran, and the end effect will be that Iran’s nuclear programme is likely to be unconstrained and the US will have no leverage to try to constrain it .”

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Iran will not renegotiate nuclear deal, says Rouhani – video

However, if Congress does not agree on new conditions, Trump threatened to “terminate” the deal himself, by executive order. If he sticks to his term, the JCPOA appears doomed in its current form.

The other signatories could try to keep it going but major European companies are likely to flee Iran for dread of losing US marketplaces. The benefits for Iran would shrink significantly, as would incentives to abide by its strictures.

A change of mind is always possible. Trump on Friday said he was ” always open” to negotiation with North Korea after weeks insistenting that he had no purpose of talking to the regime. Yet his animus towards Tehran, stoked by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seems, if anything, even more deeply entrenched.

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Pence follows Trump order and walks out of 49ers-Colts after players kneel

VP leaves NFL game after about a dozen San Francisco players kneel, before Trump corroborates walkout was planned and says he is proud

Vice-president Mike Pence left the 49 ers-Colts NFL game in Indianapolis on Sunday in a schemed stoppage, after about a dozen San Francisco players kneeled during the course of its playing of “the member states national” anthem.

Pence announced his deviation from the Lucas Oil Stadium on Twitter. A White House statement follow, with a tweet from President Donald Trump which corroborated the stoppage was not spontaneous.

” I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country ,” Trump wrote.” I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen .”

Protests of the anthem by NFL players, almost all African American, began last year when the then 49 ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest against racial injustice and police brutality. 49 ers players have been prominent among those kneeling this season and could have been expected to kneeling on Sunday.

Nor was Pence scheduled to take up the whole game. Us air force Two was due to take off from Indianapolis International Airport at 4pm on Sunday, in order for the vice-president to attend a political fundraiser in Los Angeles. The Colts-4 9ers game kicked off at 1pm ET and finished after 4.30 pm, after going to overtime.

At a rally in Alabama last month, Trump launched aggressive criticism of players and the NFL. Though Kaepernick had kneeled to protest unpunished police killings of African Americans, the president and the White House insisted that protesting the anthem showed disrespect to the flag and to American troops, veterans and first responders.

Senior administration figures including Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were deployed to say that in this instance, freedom of speech did not apply. In answer, large numbers of players knelt, teams co-ordinated actions and owners criticised Trump’s terms.

Though debate continued about the meaning of the protests, until Pence’s walkout the issue had seemed to be receding from public view.

Players and some NFL writers guess Kaepernick, who took the 49 ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, has been blackballed by the league. On Sunday, CBS reported that he said he would not protest the anthem if he ever returned. The reporter then recanted the narrative and Kaepernick tweeted a quote attributed to- but not coined by– Winston Churchill:” A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its gasps on .”

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Members of the San Francisco 49 ers kneel during the course of its playing of the national anthem. Photograph: Michael Conroy/ AP

Many commentators have also accused the president of seeking to use the NFL protests as a distraction from his own political woes.

Trump has recently been criticised for his response to the catastrophic effect of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, for his approach to North Korea, and over his relationship with secretary of state Rex Tillerson. On Sunday, the president was embroiled in an embarrassing exchange of insults with Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and a senior is part of Republican leadership.

The New York Times reported in September that attacking protesting NFL players was ” a calculated attempt to shore up” Trump’s political base.

In the statement issued by the White House, Pence said:” I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem .”

The statement then seemed to allude to Pence’s visit to Las Vegas on Saturday, when he gratified survivors and first-responders from the mass shooting at a music celebration last week in which 58 people were killed and virtually 500 injured.

It read:” At a period when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their fortitude, resolve, and resilience , now, more than ever, we should rally around our flag and everything that unites us .”

The White House released a picture of Pence and his wife stand for the anthem at the stadium in Indianapolis, with their hands on their hearts.

Pence’s Las Vegas visit mean he missed an unveiling of a statue of the great Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning on Saturday. Manning’s jersey was retired on Sunday.

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Ivana Trump: I talk to Donald regularly despite ‘insane’ divorce

Mother of Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric, preparing to publish a memoir discussing her marriage, says her daughter could be president one day

Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana, has said her daughter Ivanka could run for chairperson, and that she and Trump now speak regularly and have a warm relationship despite the “insane” circumstances of their notorious divorce.

Ivana Trump was married to Donald Trump from 1977 to 1992 and is the mother of three of the president’s children, Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric. Next week she will publish Raising Trump, a book on her matrimony and her life.

She knew her marriage was over, she writes, soon after a day in December 1989 when a” young blonde female approached me out of the blue and said’ I’m Marla and I love your spouse. Do you ?’ I said’ Get lost. I love my husband .’ It was unladylike but I was in shock .”

In 1990, Trump’s affair with Marla Maples spawned an infamous New York Post headline:” Best Sexuality I’ve Ever Had “. In 1993, Trump married Maples, who is the mother of his daughter Tiffany. He is now married to Melania Trump, the mother of his son Baron.

The Associated Press bought an early transcript of Ivana Trump’s book, in which she writes glowingly about her matrimony and her prominent role at the Trump Organization. She also writes about the ache Trump’s affair with Maples caused her and her children. Donald Jr did not speak to his father for a year after the split.

” I can only shake my head at how it insane it was ,” Ivana writes.” I couldn’t turn on the television without hearing my name .”

The divorce came under scrutiny during the 2016 election, when it was reported that Ivana once signed a sworn deposition alleging Donald had raped her. She sought to clarify that the accusation, which Trump has all along been denied, was not intended in a” literal or criminal sense “. Trump’s lawyer amplified the issue, however, by suggesting to a reporter there was no such thing as marital rape.

In her book, Ivana writes that she and the president are now on warmer terms, speaking about once a week. She encourages him to keep using Twitter, she says.

In a CBS News interview this week, Ivana said she was offered the post of diplomat to the Czech Republic but turned it down because she already had” a perfect life “. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the ambassadorship post.

Much of the book is spent recounting Ivana Trump’s childhood in Europe, her burgeoning modeling career in New York and Trump’s courtship. At their first session, she writes, Trump secured her and friends a table at a hot Manhattan restaurant, paid the check and chauffeured her back to her hotel in a giant Cadillac.

” My instincts told him that Donald was smart and funny an all-America good guy ,” she writes.

Her children also contribute passages to the book and Ivana muses that her former husband may not be the only Trump to call the White House home.

” Maybe in 15 years, she could run for chairman ?” she writes about Ivanka.” First lady? Holds no appeal for me personally. First Mother? That could run .”

Ivanka is among the most high-profile figures in the Trump administration, a senior consultant to her father. But she has struggled to assert herself, appearing to hold little if any influence on his actions.

Most recently, she and her husband, Jared Kushner, another top aide to the president, have been at the center of controversy over their use of private email accounts for government business. Republicans including the Trumps claimed Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state disqualified her from the presidency.

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, requested the coming week that the FBI review whether Ivanka and Kushner exchanged classified information through their personal accounts.

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The Trump-Russia dossier: why its findings grow more significant by the day

As US officers analyse potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, the series of reports by the former UK intelligence official Christopher Steele are casting an ever darker darknes over the president

Nine months after its first appearance, the situated of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown-up darker as time has gone by.

It was reported this week that the document’s author, former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators working for the special advise on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are, meanwhile, asking to see Steele to make up their own intellect about his findings. The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff, said that the dossier was ” a very important and useful guide to help us figure out what we need to look into “.

The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional researchers has far-reaching implications.

Originally commissioned by a private firm as opponent research by Donald Trump’s Republican and then Democratic adversaries, they quote a range of unnamed sources, in Russia and the US, who describe the Kremlin’s cultivation over several years of the man who now occupies the Oval Office– and the systematic collusion of Trump’s associates with Moscow to help get him there.

The question of collusion is at the heart of the various investigations into links between Trump and Moscow. Even a senior Republican, Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted this week it was an open question.

Burr said his committee needed to talk Steele himself to assess the dossier properly and recommended him to speak to its members or staff. According to an NBC report on Friday, Steele had expressed willingness to meet the committee’s leaders.

In his remarks this week, Burr said his committee had come to a consensus in supporting the conclusions of a US intelligence community appraisal in January this year that Russian had conducted a multi-pronged campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, in Trump’s favour.

It is a finding that echoes the reports that Steele was making seven months earlier. Trump has called the assessment a “hoax”, but there is no sign the three agencies that came to that conclusion, the CIA, FBI and NSA, have had any second thoughts in the intervene months.

” Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken[ the Steele] reports seriously since they were first published ,” wrote John Sipher, a former senior officer in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service on the Just Security website.

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Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer who compiled the reports. Photo: Victoria Jones/ PA

” This is not because they are not fond of Trump( and many admittedly are not ), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methodology and the nature of raw intelligence reporting .”

Sipher emphasised the “raw” nature of research reports, aimed at conveying an accurate account of what sources are saying, rather than claiming to be a definitive summary of events. There are spelling mistakes and rough edges. Several of the episodes it described remain entirely unverified.

But as every passing month brings more leaks, revelations in the press, and more progress in the investigations, the Steele dossier has generally gained in credibility, rather than lost it.

Trump Tower meeting

One of the more striking most recent developments was the disclosure of a meeting on 9 June 2016 in Trump Tower involving Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with a Russian lawyer closely tied to the government, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

After the meeting was first reported on 8 July this year, the president’s son claimed( in a statement dictated, it turned out, by his father) that it had been about adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

The next day that was exposed as a lie, with the publication of emails that made it clear that Veselnitskaya was offering injury material on Hillary Clinton, that an intermediary setting up the session said was ” part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump “.

If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer ,” Donald Trump Jr responded.

Just 11 days after that meeting- but more than a year before it became public- Steele quoted information sources as saying that” the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his squad valuable intelligence on his foes, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton”, for several years.

A subsequently report, dated 19 July 2016, said:” Speaking in confidence to a countryman in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership .”

The report said that such contacts were handled on Trump’s end by his then campaign director, Paul Manafort, who participated in the 9 June Trump Tower session.

Manafort has denied taking part in any collusion with the Russian nation, but registered himself as a foreign agent retroactively after it was revealed his firm received more than $17 m running as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party. He is a subject of special attorney Robert Mueller’s investigation and in July the FBI raided his home in Virginia.

Other key protagonists in the Steele dossier have surfaced in subsequent revealings and investigation. Two of them, an Azeri-Russian businessman Araz Agalarov and his son Emin, are described in emails released by Donald Trump Jr as offering to serve as intermediaries in passing on damaging material on Clinton and is reported to have help set up the Trump Tower meeting.

Carter Page

Another key figure in the Steele dossier is Carter Page, an energy consultant who Trump named as one of his foreign policy advisors. Steele’s sources describe him as an “intermediary” between Manafort and Moscow, who had met a Putin lieutenant and head of the Russian energy giant, Rosneft, and a senior Kremlin official, Igor Diveykin.

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Donald Trump and his son, Donald Jr. Photo: Jewel Samad/ AFP/ Getty Images

Page denied meeting either human on his trip-ups to Moscow, which he has said were for business purposes and not connected to his role in the Trump campaign.

Nonetheless, he has become a focus of investigation: it was reported in April that that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued an order last year for his communication to be monitored. To obtain the order, researchers would have to demonstrate” probable cause” to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. Page has said he welcomed the news of the order as it demonstrated he was being made a scapegoat of the investigation.

Elsewhere, a Steele memo in September 2016 mentions a “Mikhail Kulagin” who had been withdrawn from the Russian embassy in Washington because of his” heavy participation in the US presidential election operation “.

There was no envoy of that name at the mission, but there was a Mikhail Kalugin; five months ago, it emerged that he had left the embassy in August 2016.

McClatchy reported he was under investigationfor his role in Russia’s interference in the campaign. The BBC reported that the US had identified Kalugin as a snoop.

Facebook

More lately, there has been a slew of revelations about the role of disinformation spread by Russians and other eastern Europeans posing as Americans on social media. The New York Times reported that hundreds and possibly thousands of Russian-linked fake accounts and bots on Facebook and Twitter were used to spread anti-Clinton narratives and messages.

Facebook disclosed that it had shut down several hundred accounts that it believes were fabricated by a Kremlin-linked Russian company to buy $100,000 in ads that are typically promoted racial and other divisive issues during the campaign.

This week, Facebook handed over to Congress 3, 000 ads bought by a Russian organisation during the campaign, and it was reported that many of those ads, some of them Islamophobic, were specifically targeted on swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Steele memo from August 2016 states that after Russia’s hand had been discovered in the hacking of Democratic party emails and passing them to WikiLeaks for publishing, another boulevard of influence would be explored.

The memo says” the tactics would be to spread rumours and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content “.

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The Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who fulfilled Donald Trump Jr and other campaign figures. Photograph: Yury Martyanov/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Russian official alleged by Steele’s sources to be in charge of the operation, Sergei Ivanov- then Putin’s joint chiefs of staff- is quoted as saying:” The audience to be targeted by such operations was the educated youth in America as the PA[ Russian Presidential Administration] assessed that there was still a chance they could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump as a protest against the Washington establishment( in the form of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton ).”

The Steele dossier said one of the aims of the Russian influence campaign was to peel off voters who had supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and nudge them towards Trump.

Evidence has since emerged that Russians and east Europeans posing as Americans targeted Sanders advocates with divisive and anti-Clinton messages in the summer of 2016, after the primaries were over.

Unsubstantiated claims

There are other details in the Steele dossier that have echoed in subsequent news reports, but there are also several claims and accounts for which no supporting evidence has emerged.

The startling claim that Trump was filmed with prostitutes while staying at a Moscow hotel in November 2013, when he was staging the Miss Universe contest there, has not been substantiated in any way.

Nor has the allegation that Trump’s lawyer and vice-president of the Trump Organisation, Michael Cohen, travelled to Prague in August 2013 to conspire with a senior Russian official. In a letter to the House intelligence committee, Cohen said he never went to Prague and took issue with a string of other claims in the dossier.

It has however emerged that Cohen was involved in investigating a real estate deal in Moscow for the Trump Organisation while the campaign was in full swing. He has been summoned to appear in open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee later this month.

The Steele dossier, its writer and the firm who hired him, Fusion GPS, have become favoured targets for Trump’s loyalists on Capitol hill. They point to the fact that the genesis of the documents was a paid commission to find damaging facts about Trump.

But the dossier has not faded from view. Instead, it appears to be growing in significance as the investigations have gathered pace.

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Europes governments look to bypass Trump to save Iranian nuclear deal

Despite pressure from UK and France, US president expected to declare Tehran in violation of agreement but Senate could yet block reimposition of sanctions

European governments dread a concerted effort to persuade Donald Trump to continue to certify the Iran nuclear bargain may have failed and are now go looking for other ways to try to salvage the two year-old agreement.

European lobbying endeavours are now focused on Congress which will have two months to decide- in the is a lack of Trump’s endorsement of the 2015 deal- whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions.

Fresh sanctions could in turn trigger Iranian withdrawal and a ramping up of its now mostly latent nuclear programme, taking the Middle East back to the brink of another major conflict.

When Trump threatened to withhold certification by a congressional deadline of 15 October, the UN general assembly in mid-September was assured by the European signatories of the agreement- the UK, France and Germany- as the last best chance to convince Trump of the dangers of destroying it.

But according to the accounts of several envoys involved, the effort got nowhere.

Angela Merkel, in the final stages of an election campaign, could not attend, so it was left to Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron to use their meetings with the US president in New York to make a personal plea to keep the bargain alive.

The French president made no headway. To his consternation, Trump maintained repeating that under the bargain, the Iranians would have a nuclear bomb in five years, and nothing Macron could say would persuade him otherwise.

May’s session with the US president two days later was equally fruitless. She used half the 50 -minute meeting trying to engage Trump on the merits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action( JCPOA ), but he grew testy in response. He said he had decided on what to do, but categorically refused to tell her what that was. And he shrugged off her arguments, telling her” You attain your decisions; I’ll construct mine “. A British diplomat described it afterwards as a “robust” conversation.

Another opportunity for the Europeans to defend the deal came on the evening of 20 September, when the foreign ministers of all signatory nations attended a meeting of the Joint Commission charged with implementing it, presided over by the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson and his Iranian equivalent, Mohammad Javad Zarif, both attended the meeting around a long table in one of the security council’s meeting rooms, marking the first high-level meeting between Tehran and the Trump administration.

There was no chance of any personal chemistry breaking the ice, however. It was a perfunctory meeting, with Tillerson afterward observing drily that the two men at least” didn’t hurl shoes at one another “. Mogherini convened its present session observing that Iran had been abiding by the terms of the agreement.

When it was Tillerson’s turn, he did not repeat the debates the administration attained in public that Iran was somehow in violation. Instead, he conceded that Tehran was maintaining to its obligations but he observed that he served a president, and had been confirmed by a Congress, who reflected the will of the people- and they did not like the deal.

The former oil executive suggested the other countries around the table had made a “mistake” in striking a enter into negotiations with the Obama administration which enforced it through executive order and did not seek congressional ratification. We want to renegotiate the terms, Tillerson said, but if other parties reject, what are we to do?

When their turn came, the European pastors around the table all observed that Iran was keeping its side of the bargain but expressed willingness to confront Iran separately about its rocket programme and its role supporting armed groups around the region. The Russians and Chinese, meanwhile, were adamant there could be no renegotiation.

Speaking near the end of the meeting, Zarif declared Tillerson was ” ill-informed” for failing to acknowledge the fact that the JCPOA had been are set forth in a resolutions of the security council, which the US, a permanent council member, was now threatening to violate. Tillerson dismissed the reference to the UN resolution, and repeated his line that the JCPOA was not a formal ratified treaty, so it should be open to renegotiation.

Emerging from the meeting, Mogherini was clearly furious, and she echoed Zarif’s argument in her own statements to the press.

” This is not a bilateral agreement. This is not an agreement that involves six or seven parties ,” she told reporters.” This is a UN security council resolution with an annex … So it doesn’t belong to one country, to six countries, to seven countries, to the European union- it belongs to the international community .”

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The EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini :’ This is not a bilateral agreement … it belongs to the international community .’ Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/ Reuters

In a postmortem teleconference last week, the political directors from the foreign ministries of UK, France and Germany agreed to plan for the worse and marshall European political the resources available for a potential rearguard action lobbying in Congress.

” The E3[ the three European states] are keen not to make it all about the president’s decision ,” one envoy said.” Even if the decision is not to certify, we will want to see on what terms he passes it to Congress .”

One possibility is that Trump will gale the deal by refusing to certify, but not push for a restoration of sanctions. The state department is reported to be talking to Congress to revise its legislation so that Trump does not have to certify the bargain every 90 days, a political embarrassment. But such maneuvers also open up new opportunities for adversaries of the JCPOA to insert” poison pills” into the legislation that will ultimately succeed in killing it off.

The Senate currently appears exquisitely balanced on such issues, with almost all Republican and Democrat likely to vote by party line. The majority leaders in the Senate and the House, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, are hesitant to get bogged down in gruelling debate on an issue they believe the president should decide.

” Congress doesn’t want to get in the middle of this and own it ,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former state department official now at the Centre for a New American Security.

However, the hand of the congressional leadership could be forced by hardline opponents of the bargain who are seeking to make it a test of conservative credentials for senators wary about eluding Trump.

One of the most vociferous critics of the Iran deal in the Senate, Tom Cotton, launched his campaign in a speech on Tuesday. He recommended Trump not to certify the deal in order to clear the way for a period of “coercive diplomacy” and to persuade European governments, Russia, China and Iran to open the agreement for renegotiation. He backed the risk of being more sanctions and ultimately” calibrated strikes” against Iran’s nuclear programme.

” The United States has the ability to totally destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure ,” Cotton told the Council on Foreign Relations.” If they choose to rebuild it we can destroy it again .”

On the same day, however, the defence secretary, James Mattis, gave strong backing to the nuclear deal, telling the Senate that Iran was abiding by the terms and that the agreement was serving national interests. His intervention, backed by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford, is likely to make it harder for Trump to withhold certification, and could swing elections in a Senate decision on sanctions.

The Europeans can count on resistance from party leaders annoyed at having an executive decision palmed off on them. There are also signs that most if not all the four Democrats who voted against the JCPOA two years ago would not vote to destroy it now.

Among the 52 Republican senators, meanwhile, there are likely to be a handful unwilling to take responsibility for steering the US towards another conflict.

” Congress has an insatiable craving for sanctions. But it would be disastrous to impose new sanctions on Iran now and senators know that ,” said Joe Cirincione, the head of the Ploughshares Fund, a non-proliferation advocacy group. How the vote would go, he added, was anybody’s guess.

Even if the JCPOA’s adversaries did not manage to kill it with their first shot, said Reza Marashi, the research director of the National Iranian American Council, they are unlikely to give up.

” The Iran hawks will try to have multiple bites of the cherry and will keep pushing for more referendums ,” Marashi said. If the Europeans wanted to try to save the JCPOA, he added,” they now have very little time “.

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Rex Tillerson says he won’t quit but doesn’t deny calling Trump a ‘moron’

US secretary of state pledges loyalty to the president and shrugs off report he called Trump a moron in White House meeting as petty nonsense

The US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has denied he has considered abdication and pledged allegiance to Donald Trump in the wake of a report that he had called the president a “moron”.

” There has never been a consideration in my intellect to leave. I serve at the appointment of the president and I’m here as long as the president supposes I can be useful to achieving his objectives ,” Tillerson said at a hastily arranged press appearance on Wednesday.

But he did not deny the report on NBC News on Wednesday morning that he had derided Trump as a “moron” in a meeting of White House national security officials and members of the cabinet. Instead, he shrugged off research reports as” petty nonsense” and issued a river of kudo for the president.

” He loves his country. He sets America and Americans first. He’s smart. He demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they have done the job he has asked him to do ,” Tillerson said.

Moments after his statement, CNN also reported that he had called Trump a moron and that Trump had been made aware of it.

After Tillerson’s appearance, the state department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, held a separate press conference and denied Tillerson had called the president a moron, insisting:” He never said that .”

For those who wanted him to resign, Nauert said:” Go ahead and keep pushing, because that will only enhance its resolve .”

The secretary of state said he had not talked to the president on Wednesday morning before making his statement, saying Trump was on his route to Las Vegas. But the president was clearly watching Tillerson, tweeting within a few minutes.

” The NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec Tillerson and VP Pence. It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA !” Trump wrote.

After Tillerson’s statement, a NBC correspondent put out a tweet quoting MSNBC anchorwoman Stephanie Ruhle as saying:” My source didn’t just say he called him a moron. He said he called him an f-ing moron .”

The report by NBC News is the latest in a long series of snapshots of an administration in near constant crisis, largely as a result of the erratic and abrasive character of the president. In its first nine months it has been dogged by abdications, gaffes, failed legislative initiatives, and scandals, to a degree unmatched by any administration in modern US history.

Trump has openly disparaged his own top officials, such as the us attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and repeatedly contradicted and undercut Tillerson- most recently when the secretary of state was in China to explore ways of containing the Northern korean nuclear crisis.

Tillerson mentioned said there were channels of communication between Washington and Pyongyang. Soon afterwards, Trump went on Twitter to say the secretary of state was ” wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man[ Trump’s nickname for Kim Jong-un ]”.

” Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done !” he tweeted.

Speculation on whether Tillerson would resign has swirled around Washington throughout the summer, and apparently for good reason.

Tillerson was in Texas for his son’s wedding in late July, when Trump addressed the Boy scout of America, an organisation Tillerson once operated and is passionate about.

The president’s address stimulated little allowance for the fact he was addressing an audience of adolescents and Trump spent much of it scoring political phases against his competitors and boasting about his election success more than eight months earlier.

Tillerson threatened not turning now to Washington, according to NBC quoting three unnamed sources” with direct knowledge of security threats “. The report said the defence secretary, James Mattis, and retired General John Kelly, who would subsequently become White House chief of staff, helped talk him out of resigning to the purposes of national stability.

When Tillerson did return to Washington, Mike Pence, the vice-president, is reported to have arranged a meeting with him to advise him on how to get on with Trump.

Tillerson’s spokesman, RC Hammond, said Tillerson did not consider ceasing over the summer and did not call the president a moron. He told NBC he was unaware of Tillerson’s meeting with Pence.

Pence’s office also denied the NBC report.

” The vice-president can also confirm that, as the secretary of state made clear, at no time did he and the secretary ever discuss the prospect of the secretary’s abdication from the administration ,” Pence’s office said.

Asked about his reaction to the day’s furore around Tillerson, the Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Bob Corker said:” I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that assistance separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much .”

Earlier this year, Tillerson admitted that he did not want to be US secretary of state and only took the job because his wife persuaded him to do it.

Tillerson had not met Donald Trump before being summoned to Trump Tower after the election, ostensibly to talk to the president-elect” about the world” and his experiences as an oil company CEO. He was ” stunned” to be offered the job of secretary or nation, he said.

” I didn’t want this chore. I didn’t seek this job ,” Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review( IJR) in March.” My wife told me I’m supposed to do this .”

Twitter users seized upon the row to recirculate a cartoon that Trump originally posted in 2014.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

An interesting cartoon that is circulating. pic.twitter.com/ OPG2R 2ytkr

October 22, 2014

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Trump calls Facebook anti-Trump so it goes soft on him

Trump may have found a style to tie Facebook’s hands as it investigates Russian interference into the election.

Without citing any evidence or even a reason, Donald Trump today declared that “Facebook was always anti-Trump”. That’s despite Trump’s campaign heavily relying on targeted Facebook ads during the election to rally citizens sympathetic to his brand of nationalism.

This morning Trump tweeted, “Facebook was always anti-Trump. The Networks were always anti-Trump hence, Fake News, @nytimes ( apologized)& @WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion? .. But the person or persons were Pro-Trump! Virtually no President has accomplished what we have accomplished in the first 9 months-and economy roaring”.

Despite the claim, Facebook’s share price is still up 1.35% today, showing investors don’t believe the tweet portends Trump meddling with Facebook’s business.

[ Update: Mark Zuckerberg has responded to Trump’s tweet, writing “Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what operating a platform for all notions looks like.” Zuckerberg went on to describe how Facebook’s impact on the election was more about devoting everyone including the candidates a voice than malicious interference or bias .]

From one slant, though, Trump might be right. Facebook is led by liberals who support immigrants and refugees, the LGBT community, and equal rights for women and muslims — all of which Trump has railed against.

“I hear fearful voices calling for build walls and slowing immigration” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at Facebook’s April 2016 F8 developer conference. He advocated that the country “Instead of build walls, build bridges. And instead of divide people, we can help bring people together.” Zuckerberg has also immediately spoken out against Trump’s moves against Dreamers who immigrated to the US as children, and his push for a transgender troop ban.

I attended then-President Barack Obama’s townhall at Facebook HQ in 2011, and it was clear that the employee section enthusiastically whooped it up for Democrat policies and growled when Obama and Zuckerberg discussed the Republican agenda.

Zuckerberg results a town hall session at Facebook’s headquarters with President Obama in 2011

Yet on the other side, Facebook has purposefully tried to avoid seeming biased against conservatives. Anonymous reports to Gizmodo claimed that Facebook’s Trending news team purposefully inhibited conseverative news outlets.

While Facebook’s internal investigation supposedly determined no proof of this, it induced stiff changes to how Trend were surfaced, and moved to a largely algorithm-driven system to reduce the potential human bias. It also met with conservative news outlets to promise them a balanced platform.

Some believe this scandal is what led Facebook to be soft in its initial response to fake news during the election, as this content was more commonly pushed by right wing new media sources. Gizmodo reported that Facebook shelved an anti-fake news update to its News Feed during the election for fear of eliciting Republican backlash against the platform. That could both endanger Facebook’s ad-driven business model, but also could have pushed conservatives off the social network, worsening the polarization of the country.

In the end, Facebook was is the responsibility of allowing fake news to proliferate in ways that might have assisted Trump’s election victory.

And so, here we may find a rationale for Trump’s criticism of Facebook today. If he can embolden critics who say Facebook leans left, the company may be less aggressive in tackling fake news and its on-going investigation into Russian interference in the election. It could also deter Facebook from potentially penalise or blocking Trump’s Facebook account for distributing abhor or menaces more, as many have called on Twitter to do.

Facebook today outlined 11 tactics it used to thwart interference in the Germany federal election. But it could encounter resistance from Trump’s followers for trying to implement these in the U.S.

As long as Facebook must actively combat the perception that it’s anti-Trump, it may have to act more pro-Trump, or at least neutral in the face of his incendiary actions.

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Donald Trump dedicates golf trophy to Puerto Rico amid disaster response criticism

Trump presents Presidents Cup to winner and says situation in hurricane-hit province is under really great control

The US president, Donald Trump, has dedicated a golf trophy to the hurricane victims of Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, amid a worsening war of words between him and the mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan, over the US response to the disasters.

Presenting the trophy to the US captain, Steve Stricker, at the President Cup golf tournament in New Jersey, Trump said:” On behalf of all of the people of Texas, and all of the people- if you look today and insure what is happening, how horrible it is, but we have it under really great control- Puerto Rico and the people of Florida who have really suffered over this last short period of time with the hurricanes, I want to simply recollect them.

” And we’re going to dedicate this trophy to all of those people that went through so much that we love, a part of our great country, really a part of our great nation .”

Trump tweeted a video of him presenting the trophy later on Sunday.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

Congratulations to #TeamUSA

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